Don't Be Shocked: Know These 8 On-Site Safety Tips for Electricians

Electricians put themselves at risk for electrical shocks, burns, falls, and cuts every day on the job. These potential hazards led Wonderslist to name the profession one of the top 10 "most tough and dangerous jobs" on the planet. However, there's no need to succumb to dangers if you practice these important on-site safety tips.

Get to Know Your Workplace

Electricians should familiarize themselves with their work environment before commencing a new job. They should discover where the fire extinguishers are located and ensure they know how to use them. You should also note the different types of fire extinguishers available and know which one to use for each type of fire. If there's any confusion, consult your employer, as using the wrong extinguisher could make an electrical fire much worse.

Ensure Adequate Supervision

The head electrician or employer is responsible for ensuring apprentices and trainees have an adequate level of supervision to keep themselves safe. Appropriate supervision will vary depending on the knowledge and skill level of the apprentice or electrician trainee and the risks associated with the work required. For example, a third- or fourth-year apprentice or trainee may be able to perform new electrical installations with minimal supervision, while a first- or second-year apprentice or trainee may need closer monitoring to perform this task safely.

Electricians are also responsible for protecting their own health and safety on the job. As an electrician, you shouldn't undertake tasks you feel are risky or don't have adequate training to handle. You should feel comfortable asking for assistance and supervision when required. This assistance should always be provided by a senior electrician, rather than another apprentice or trainee.

Use Appropriate Safety Equipment

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Safety clothing and other safety equipment is designed to protect electricians on the job, so it's essential to know what gear is appropriate for each task. Employers should provide protective clothing such as insulated gloves, safety helmets, boots, and protective glasses for employees. A hard hat may be required on a site where objects might fall, and voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors should be worn when working with high voltage wires.

While protective clothing shouldn't be restrictive, it's also vital that it's not loose-fitting. Clothing should have concealed buttons that don't conduct electricity, sleeves that reach the wrists, and trouser legs that extend to footwear. Footwear should have insulated soles.

Electricians should only work with equipment and tools featuring non-conductive handles. In addition, protective equipment, such as insulated mats, covers, and barriers, should also be available to electricians working near live parts or where dangerous electric arcing or heating could occur. If you're working near high-voltage components, exposed live parts, and electrical hazards, you should have access to portable ladders with non-conductive side rails.

Don't Overlook Metal

This might seem like an obvious tip, but it's surprising how easy it is to accidentally use metal goods onsite. Far too many electricians have dressed in protective clothing only to be shocked by the metal wedding ring or watchband they're wearing. These accessories and other metal items must be removed before stepping onsite.

You also never use metallic items, such as metal pencils or rulers, while working with electrical equipment. These seemingly harmless tools can conduct a nasty shock.

Isolation Procedures Keep Electricians Safe

Following best practice isolation procedures before commencing electrical repairs or other alterations helps protect electricians and their equipment. This process disconnects electrical circuits or equipment from the electricity supply so it can be worked on safely. You should, however, seek permission from relevant bodies before isolating a system. This ensures essential services aren't interrupted and access and vicinity permit systems are adhered to.

Once a circuit or piece of equipment is isolated, a danger tag should be placed on it to alert other electricians that it's being worked on and shouldn't be used. This tag should be removed at the completion of the job; if the job is incomplete, then the tag should be removed at the end of the shift and replaced with a new tag indicating an ongoing issue.

Also be sure to check the isolation points after isolating the system to ensure the process was successful. This testing process should be repeated every time an electrician returns from a break to ensure the system is still safe to work on.

Work One-Handed Wherever Possible

It might seem counter-intuitive to work one-handed, but there's a very important reason for doing so. An electrician that keeps one hand in his pocket or by his side is keeping that free hand far away from conductive materials. This measure minimizes the risk of dangerous, heart-stopping accidents where an electric current passes through the chest cavity. If it's safe to perform a task with just one hand, it's worth taking this extra precautionary measure — just in case. 

Perform Checks Once Work is Complete

Once electrical work is completed, it's important to do a series of checks. The job should be tested before the system is energized to ensure all work has been performed successfully. You should also check to make sure you have all of your tools and none have been left at the job site. Only then should the system be re-energized and the warning tags removed.

Be Prepared for an Emergency

Despite a range of preventive measures, electrical accidents can still happen. Knowing how to deal with them may mean the difference between life and death. All electricians working onsite should know resuscitation procedures and electrical shock and electrical burn treatments.

Site supervisors should also keep a first aid kit handy. This should be regularly checked to ensure it contains all necessary items. Sterile gauze bandages and over-the-counter pain relievers are important for treating electrical accidents. Be sure to report any electrical accidents, even those that seem minor, to your employer.

Working with live electricity can be hazardous, but you can stay safe while you're on the job with these on-site tips.

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